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Top 50 Best Trailers Of All Time

15. Pulp Fiction (1994)

That surf guitar! The Mariachi hoots! Even now, the opening seconds of the “Pulp Fiction” trailer have a nose-opening charge: something new is happening here. It’s not like Tarantino was breaking terribly original ground — the first shots of the trailer are of guns, cash and a kiss in quick succession — but something about the arrangement, or rearrangement, was completely compelling, and this sneak preview managed to capture that quality.

It’s actually a remarkably compact primer on not just the film’s story but its cool, kitschy tone: an AWOL John Travolta surfaces, Samuel L. Jackson in Jheri curl and Uma Thurman barefoot and frugging. The intertitles — LOYALTY, BETRAYAL, CRIME: YOU WON”T KNOW THE FACTS UNTIL YOU SEE THE FICTION — are the only cheesy (and not meta-cheesy) elements. Some truly prescient trailer editor managed to pull out what would become almost all of the film’s visually iconic moments and present them in a pure adrenaline rush. By the time the insane list of supporting players is being listed off, any respectable filmgoer was almost apoplectic with popcorn lust: Give. Me. That. Movie. –Michelle Orange

14. Garden State (2005)

“Garden State” never managed the darkness and gravity that could have made it as memorable as “The Graduate,” a film with which writer/director/star Zach Braff would no doubt like his to be associated. But the Frou Frou-scored teaser encapsulates all of that wonderful promise of generation-summing angst, and without a word of dialog. The airplane scene intro, the funeral, the daisy chain of children crossing the street — the moody, wistful collage of images and the crowded nightmare of the modern medicated world are a jumble around Braff’s Andrew Largeman, who’s too numbed to notice. The secret to the teaser’s hypnotic quality is that it’s cut particularly well to the song’s beats, with gestures and edits aligning with rhythms and Imogen Heap’s drawn-out note before the chorus perfectly paired with that primal scream pullback over the rainy quarry. –Brandon Kim

13. Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

William Castle didn’t cut the same silhouette as Alfred Hitchcock, but he shared the same pride in cutting a trailer. Backlit with a cigar dangling from his lip as he perches in a director’s chair, Castle sits silently as the words “from the screen’s No. 1 shock expert” blaze across the screen. Of course, audiences had seen Castle turn around from his chair before — just two years earlier in 1959, he could be seen touting “Percepto,” a device that gave random audience members a buzz in their seats as they watched “The Tingler.” But “Mr. Sardonicus” encouraged further audience participation with Castle unveiling the “Punishment Poll,” an opportunity for viewers to choose the ending of the film at the close of the second act.

Gleefully co-opting stock footage of Roman gladiators and the French Revolution dramas to describe how the “thumbs up, thumbs down” system of voting was going to work, Castle goes on to blur Mr. Sardonicus’ face from the subsequent scenes of the film, not wanting to taint the voting process. As director Stuart Gordon recounts over at Trailers From Hell, the whole thing was a con, but only a showman like Castle could pull it off. –Stephen Saito

12. Independence Day (1996)

Watching the “Independence Day” teaser today, it’s impossible not to note its influence on subsequent summer blockbusters, its every facet now a bedrock cliché of the season’s cinematic entertainment. In quick, minimalistic bursts, the trailer provides the only information one requires. On July 2nd — cut to shots of enormous, ominous shadows covering beloved national monuments like the Statue of Liberty and the Lincoln Memorial — “They Arrive.” Then, there are multiple shots of diverse citizens turning their eyes upward to stare in horrified awe at the sky, images that stoke the central mystery while simultaneously presenting a state of affairs the audience can naturally project themselves into.

On July 3rd, “They Attack,” a message that leads directly into the unforgettable sight of the White House being obliterated by a UFO laser blast. Still need more enticement to see the film? July 4th is “The Day We Fight Back”! Portentous tease + cataclysmic payoff + promise of all-out retribution: Roland Emmerich’s trailer laid out, for a generation of filmmakers to come, the surefire recipe for marketing a big-budget sci-fi spectacle. –Nick Schager

11. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Artisan ran one of the most successful marketing campaigns of the ’90s in promoting “The Blair Witch Project,” otherwise known as the little indie that ruined it for everyone, even its stars: when the film got into Cannes, none of the actors were allowed to attend and soak up the glory, so devoted was the distributor to maintaining the idea that the film just might possibly be real, meaning that its subjects were dead.

The first teaser for the film weighed in at only 37 seconds, and for 35 of those seconds the screen is black. In white text, a couple of sentences set up the scenario: three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods of Maryland while shooting a documentary; only their footage was recovered. We hear a choked, heaving female voice uttering what seem to be her last words, apologizing to the families of her friends. A strange tension builds throughout the short clip that culminates with an absolutely terrifying shot of two teary, frightened eyes lit by a flashlight: “I am so… scared.” Jesus God, so am I! –Michelle Orange

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15 Comments »

  • Jase said

    Where the heck is Hitchhiker’s Guide’s trailer?

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  • Thom said

    I enjoy trailers a lot & regularly am glued to the internet watching the latest releases.

    I was trying to remember a trailer that I was impressed by and couldn’t really think of any (probably at the fault of my memory more than anything else). However the one that is popping into my head now is “Pineapple Express”. It introduced a lot of people to the wicked MIA track “Paper Planes” and I actually spit out my coffee laughing when James Franco “helps” to clear the car windscreen. It really made me want to see it (unfortunately, the movie itself was a bit of a let down). Take a look at it http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/pineappleexpress/high.html

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  • Sheridan Passell said
    Sheridan Passell

    Yeah, Pineapple Express is a great trailer.

    The best recent trailer for me was The Prestige. It wasn’t groundbreaking in any way, it just took a concept I had no interest in and made it compulsory. Not often that happens.

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  • dnwilliams said
    dnwilliams

    saw this over on ifc, nicely done. loved how high cloverfield was.

    the prestige did have a cool trailer, mi3 too (the explosion threw tom cruise onto a car!)

    i like the two towers requiem for a tower trailer, even if that music is played out now…

    the most recent trailers that i absolutely love are the 500 hundred days of summer trailer and the benjamin button trailer

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  • Mimi said

    I am also a trailer obsessed moviegoer. We should all unite sometime.

    Personally, i enjoyed the Illusionist trailer as well. The prestige was nicely put together, yet the plot was iffy for me.

    I think this was a great list of trailers. I would prefer less old trailers, but still they were excellent.

    Maybe soon, there will be a 50 worst trailers of all time. I would like to put The Perfect Getaway on there already.

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  • Trodaboy said

    It surprised me that KILL BILL wasn’t on this list, when I first saw the trailer I was like..”I gotta see this movie” plus the music was so damn addictive!

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  • jack said

    Are you kidding me! The revenge of the sith is the best trailer ever!! no because of the movie itslef, but because of the way the use footage from Star wars to connect between the two trilogies. Listen to the old Obi-Wan (sir Alec Guiness) telling the tale of the time when the Jedi where the pace keepers of the galaxy while you see footage from Revenge of the Sith, that is the best way to close the loop between the two stories.
    Is a shame that you didn’t even include is in your list!!

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  • Nicolas said

    I’m not really convinced with number 1… the best trailer ever in my opinion is PEARL HARBOR Official Trailer… I will never forget how impressed I was at young age watch this trailer for the first time in the cinema. Epic.. best ever trailer so far. And the movie was one of the best too

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  • Lisa said

    The best trailer in my humble opinion is a little-known gem called ‘The Genius Club’. It’s one of the most profound movies ever made.

    You can rent it at Netflix, I think.

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  • lisa loller said

    this is 1 funniest thing i’ve ever heard lisa….the genius club is best muv…cant even spit at that

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  • Joey said

    Where is Jurassic Park it was classic just the ripples in the water you had no idea what was coming.

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  • Liam said

    WTF where is TF3

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  • siddharth said

    now look everyone the best movie trailer is :

    INCEPTION

    i mean when the trailer first came everyone was astouned. A lot of
    people were searching the google for its background music. And i’m just upset that u don’t have inception anywhere on the list
    too bad, really

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